Ambient Air Analysis

Criteria Pollutants

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six common air pollutants, also known as "criteria air pollutants."  These pollutants are particulate matter, photochemical oxidants (including ozone), carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and lead. EPA calls these pollutants “criteria” air pollutants because it sets NAAQS for them based on the criteria, which are characterizations of the latest scientific information regarding their effects on health or welfare."  These pollutants are found all over the U.S. There is significant research to show they can harm your health and the environment, and cause property damage. The trends of ambient are changing, and industries across the nation are focused on them.

Priority Pollutants

Priority Pollutants are a set of regulated chemical pollutants for which there are developed analytical test methods. The current list of 126 Priority Pollutants can also be found at 40 CFR Part 423, Appendix A.   While these pollutants are not the only pollutants regulated in Clean Water Act programs, the list is an important starting point to consider of any discharge that could result in impacting health or environment or property damage.

How this impacts you!

There are a variety of reasons for conducting ambient air studies, including:   

  • permit requirements,
  • agency requests,
  • legal property line disputes and ownership of the pollutant,
  • management due diligence,
  • employee or neighbor complaints

 There is a wide range of analytical approaches based on the reason for the testing and the target compound(s) of interest.  For some projects the method and approach is already laid out and with others it’s a design based on Data Quality Objectives (DQO).  DQO places the reason in the background and target pollutant in the foreground.  What do we need to identify? What level of concentration are we targeting? What accuracy and precision is needed?   The accuracy of a measurement means getting a value that is close to the actual answer. Precision, on the other hand, refers to the reproducibility of this result that is you get the same result every time you try.


Sample Analysis for Ambient Air




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